SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – The San Jose City Council will take a vote Tuesday to determine the fate of the Christopher Columbus statue in City Hall.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has already made his position clear. He says it’s time for the statue to go.
The statue of Columbus has taken a prominent place at San Jose’s City Hall since the 1950’s.
But Liccardo is adding a strong voice to the calls to have the statue removed.
“Colombus never landed in the Alviso Marina. So there is no policy basis for keeping a statue of somebody who was not from San Jose in City Hall,” said Liccardo.
The marble statue, hand carved in Italy, was a gift to the city of San Jose from Italian-American groups in 1958.
Some members of those same groups still want the statue to stay.
“It’s kind of a setback in our culture. Columbus is renown throughout the world, not just in Italy,” said Tony Zerbo with the Italian American Heritage Foundation. “Italian Americans here, in San Francisco and throughout the Bay Area are very proud of that.”
But over the decades, the statue has become a focal point in San Jose culture wars.
While some view Columbus as a brave explorer, others see him as a ruthless colonizer.
The statue has been attacked and pieced back together twice.
“Look, I’m Italian American. I think my grandfather was a member of the group that donated it,” said Liccardo. “But I think that our understanding of history evolves as we learn more.”
San Jose has a history of public art controversy.
A statue of Thomas Fallon raising the American flag over San Jose during the war with Mexico was kept in crates for years because it offended Mexican Americans.
Another statue of an Aztec plumed serpent was commissioned to provide cultural balance.
Statue backers say they expected more support from Liccardo.
“I’m really disappointed in him, he’s supposed to be our leader in the Italian American community,” said Zerbo.
The statue won’t be going far.
The City Council is to decide if it will be moved to the airport or placed in the lobby of the Bank of Italy display at History Park.